The most dangerous words are “I deserve.”

The worst decisions I’ve ever made can be traced back to my believing that I “deserved” something.

No good action follows the declaration that we “deserve” something. I know the internet is awash in memes that declare we all deserve better, and should bend all efforts to attaining what we so desperately want and feel we should have, but such focus on the self leads to very dangerous, wholly self-interested thinking.

Whoa–let me get out of the way first before I’m mowed over . . .

We use the words “I deserve” to prove why we should have a benefit, and why possibly someone else shouldn’t. Why we should be given an endowment, an entitlement, first dibs, or even that perfect parking space.

We justify indulging ourselves in a multitude of ways—from spending too much and eating too much and pampering too often—all on the basis of our “deserving” it.

We say “I deserve” to prove that we shouldn’t be inconvenienced, or mistreated, or insulted, or hurt.

But other people can be. They’re not as worthy as us. They don’t deserve what we get.

“Well, that’s a little different . . .”

We claim “I deserve” when we aim to promote ourselves, even at the risk of demoting someone else. When we demand preferential treatment, ahead of everyone else. The inconsequential, the tender, the innocent, even the guilty and the important “deserve” to be trampled in our rush to get what we “deserve.”

I deserve” means no one better get in my way, or tell me anything other than I’m the most special creature ever created, even though seven billion people also inhabit this earth, along with a trillion other living organisms. We think, for some inexplicable reason, that the world owes us something.

We tell ourselves “I deserve” to justify our greed, our selfishness, our childishness, and our often vain ambitions. 

‘Ms. Clinton, some have suggested that you aren’t healthy enough or are too old to pursue the presidency. Do you have a comment on that?’. I knew I had crossed a line for her right away. She snapped back, ‘It’s my turn. I’ve done my time, and I deserve it.

Think about what happens when people think “I deserve”: They believe they can justify any behavior, tweak any law, get away with any indiscretion, or rationalize any sin because they “deserve” to.

The word itself suggests the opposite of serve: de-serve.

But no one deserves anything, especially not pain, especially not anger, especially not suffering.

I do, however, tell my children that everyone deserves kindness; but that’s because I expect them to give kindness, not demand it from anyone else.

Does anyone else hear a toddler in their head, screaming, “Gimme gimme gimme!”

Be very, very wary anytime someone says, “I deserve.” Nothing unselfish follows such a declaration.

And be even more wary when you begin to think this way for yourself.

I deserve

“Tonight,” Perrin said, “I decided the most harmful sentences begin with, ‘I deserve.’” Book 4, The Falcon in the Barn    

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